The same reason that I could never be a habitual smoker is the same reason that I wouldn’t make a good big screen vampire.
This occurred to me while watching 30 Days of Night, the latest adapted entry in Hollywood’s favorite source material of the moment, the graphic novel. The film’s
vampires are really inefficient when one gets right down to it. After
all, if it’s blood one craves, why would you puncture a jugular, enjoy
only a quick pint (or less) in orgiastic fashion, and then simply leave
the body? This, to me, seems terribly wasteful — the genre equivalent
of lighting a cigarette and flipping it away or stubbing it out after a
quick, single drag. While 30 Days of Night doesn’t exactly encourage such pause
for thought, the fact that I had time to reflect on such matters is
indicative of how at least somewhat botched a rendering of a great
concept the movie is.
It’s a time of hunkered-down communal survival,
with liquor and beer taps turned off at the local bar in order to temper tempers. Relishing this
free rein, a group of bloodthirsty vampires, led by Danny Huston,
arrive to take advantage of the situation by feeding on the helpless
residents. It’s up to Sheriff Eben Olemaun (Josh Hartnett, above right), his estranged wife Stella (Melissa George, above center) and an ever-shrinking group of survivors to do everything they can to
last until the next daylight. If this means going Anne Frank and holing
up in an attic to much bickering discord, so be it.
30 Days of Night is directed, improbably enough, by David Slade, who most recently made the indie two-hander Hard Candy. As in that film, Slade trades heartily in tight close-ups, though of
course dialing down the color saturation to play up the surrounding
darkness. Early on, this tack suits the material, as the movie is a quickened-pace, Dawn of the Dead-style
re-imagining of pure, streamlined genre material, with its vampires
swooping around in quick bursts and speaking in a subtitled dialect of
phonetic clicks and high-pitched shrieks. Much more an exercise in
horror than action, the movie dashes through its moral quandary
checklist — a violent attack by an infected kid, the assisted suicide
of another infected person — and gets some of its ya-yas out via the
group assault of a young woman used, to no avail, as bait to try to
lure humans out from hiding.
Diehard vampire aficionados and source text fans will appreciate much of the film, and it definitely earns points for a bleak ending that doesn’t try to have it both ways. Still, 30 Days of Night remains essentially a somewhat
shrug-inducing vessel of unfulfilled potential, consisting of solidly
executed attack passages followed by great stretches of relative
tedium, or at least overly familiar genre dawdling (the waylaid
re-supply trip, the infected survivor). The great potential of its concept (“We should have come up here ages
ago!” even one of the vampires admits) never takes full bloom,
partially because of wanly sketched supporting characters, but chiefly
because the restrictive conditions of space and passing time are
communicated in such a fuzzy, haphazard fashion. For the full review, from FilmStew, click here.